Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Women For Santorum Speak

Rick Santorum recently said that impregnated rape victims should “accept what God has given you” and “make the best out of a bad situation.” Let’s listen as the women for Santorum express appreciation for his advice:

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Scalia: Object To Unlimited Corporate Political Cash? Don't Watch TV

The Supreme Court's "Citizens United" ruling, which enabled corporate money to flood the political system, has done so much harm in terms of corrupting American democracy. The decision gave rise to Super PACS, groups allied with candidates that can collect unlimited funds as long as they–supposedly–don't directly work with the candidate. They're collecting unprecedented amounts of money and were part of the recent barrage of anti-Gingrich attack ads by the Romney camp, which Gingrich described as a "carpet bombing." Now Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has come up with a simple solution to those who object to unlimited corporate political contributions, Super PACs and the poisoning of the electoral system. Speaking to the South Carolina Bar on the two-year anniversary of the ruling, he said the following:

"I don't care who is doing the speech – the more the merrier. People are not stupid. If they don't like it, they'll shut it off."

Got it? Don't watch TV. Case closed.

Begala, Carville: "We Don't Understand Republicans"

Former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer recently wrote that Democratic strategists Paul Begala and James Carville (left to right) don't understand Republicans. Begala and Carville acknowledged as much, speaking for many of us who ultimately do not comprehend how Republicans think. From "Yes, there's a lot we don't understand about the GOP":

Our esteemed CNN colleague Ari Fleischer says we don't understand Republicans.


We raise our children by the golden rule, and don't understand Republicans who boo it.

We salute gay soldiers and don't understand Republicans who boo them.

We hear about someone who's sick and lacks health insurance, and we pray, "Let him live," and don't understand Republicans who yell, "Let him die!"

We are proud to have helped President Clinton, whose policies balanced the budget, created 23 million jobs and lifted millions out of poverty, and we don't understand Republicans who inherited those blessings and gave us three wars, three tax cuts for the rich and a massive deficit. Indeed, we owe Mr. Fleischer's Republican Party and the Republican president he served a debt we can never repay.

So Ari is right, we just don't understand Republicans...

Jim Hightower: “Shoveling America’s Wealth To The Top”

Jim Hightower reminds us that our corporate and political leaders have colluded in shoveling wealth to the top. The one percent are getting more goodies not because of their talents and hard work, but because they’ve rigged the economic system in their favor–at the expense of the majority. Now that the majority has become more aware, however, it wants a more even distribution of the wealth created by us all. Listen:

(h/t: Best of the Left)

Bryan Fischer Blames Bill Clinton For Oral Sex-Related Cancers

Right-wing religious fundamentalist Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association stated on his radio show that the cause for the rise in HPV cancers transmitted by oral sex is...Bill Clinton. Yup, it was Clinton who motivated "an entire generation of young people" to have oral sex. Watch:

Fischer: What he did with the intern, the kind of activity they engaged in…he told everybody, ‘Look, what we did, that’s not sex,’ and an entire generation of young people believed him and they imitated his example.... How is that virus spread? How does it get into the places where it can cause cancer in the neck and in the head? Well, because of people who practice the kind of activity that President Clinton practiced in the Oval Office and said ‘Look, it’s not really sex. It’s safe, no problems here,’ and now we’ve got this rash of cancers of the neck and the head among our 20-somethings. Why? Because they imitated the example of the individual who sat in the Oval Office. (h/t: Addicting Info, Right Wing Watch)

Newark Mayor Booker Blasts Proposed NJ Gay Marriage Referendum

Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, NJ, stated his strong opposition to Gov. Chris Christie’s proposal of a state referendum on gay marriage. Booker made a powerful case against the civil and legal rights of minorities being subject to a popular vote. Watch:

Booker: We should not be putting civil rights issues to a popular vote… No minority should have their rights subject to the passions and sentiments of the majority. This is a fundamental bedrock of what our nation stands for. …I read the 14th Amendment clearly. It talks about equal protection under the law. And that was never something that should go out to a popular vote, whether blacks, women or other minorities should [have] equal, first-class citizenship.

Jon Stewart: Gingrich Wants To Be “A Lunar Trump”

Newt Gingrich’s latest “big idea” is to establish a lunar base by his “second term.” When 13,000 Americans are on the moon, “they can petition to become a state.” All this from someone who complains of being attacked for grandiosity. How Gingrich’s proposal fits into the budget remains to be worked out. Bear in mind that Gingrich said that Nancy Pelosi “lives in a San Francisco environment of very strange fantasies” and Ron Paul is known for his “systemic avoidance of reality.” In reviewing these loony ideas, Stewart recalls that Gingrich called statehood for Washington, DC, “crazy.” What Gingrich wants, Stewart continues, is to be “a condo developer on the moon,” a “lunar Trump.” Watch:

Santorum: Pregnant Rape Victims Should Make The Best Of It

Interviewed by CNN's Piers Morgan, Rick Santorum stated that an impregnated rape victim should "just make the best out of a bad situation." A woman traumatized by this terrible violation should not have a choice, according to Santorum, regarding whether to carry the fetus to term. Even though Santorum insists that "it's not a matter of religious values," he speaks in terms of such values. While he has a right to his beliefs, he has no right to impose them on another–particularly a rape victim. Watch:

Santorum: Well, you can make the argument that if she doesn’t have this baby, if she kills her child, that that, too, could ruin her life. And this is not an easy choice. I understand that. As horrible as the way that that son or daughter and son was created, it still is her child. And whether she has that child or she doesn’t, it will always be her child. And she will always know that. And so to embrace her and to love her and to support her and get her through this very difficult time, I’ve always, you know, I believe and I think the right approach is to accept this horribly created — in the sense of rape — but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you. As you know, we have to, in lots of different aspects of our life. We have horrible things happen. I can’t think of anything more horrible. But, nevertheless, we have to make the best out of a bad situation.

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Beth Orton's "She Cries Your Name"

English singer-songwriter Beth Orton performs "She Cries Your Name," whose lyrics speak of a frustrated appeal for love.

Friday, January 27, 2012

OWS Raised Awareness Of Class Conflict

Despite the criticism of Occupy Wall Street as a movement without a purpose, it actually raised awareness and changed the national dialogue. First, the misguided emphasis on the deficit gave way to a focus on employment as the way toward economic revival. In addition, the public became aware of income inequality and the ways in which the economy was rigged through tax cuts for the wealthy and deregulation. According to a recent survey by the non-partisan Pew Research Center, most Americans now believe that class conflict is the greatest source of tension in the country. While Mitt Romney wants the discussion of income inequality confined to “quiet rooms,” the awareness of economic injustice is spreading–in great part due to OWS:

About two-thirds of Americans now believe there are “strong conflicts” between rich and poor in the United States, a survey by the Pew Research Center found, a sign that the message of income inequality brandished by the Occupy Wall Street movement and pressed by Democrats may be seeping into the national consciousness.

...The survey, which polled 2,048 adults from Dec. 6 to 19, found that perception of class conflict surged the most among white people, middle-income earners and independent voters. But it also increased substantially among Republicans, to 55 percent of those polled, up from 38 percent in 2009, even as the party leadership has railed against the concept of class divisions.

The change in perception is the result of a confluence of factors, Mr. [Richard] Morin [a senior editor at Pew Social & Demographic Trends] said, probably including the Occupy Wall Street movement, which put the issue of undeserved wealth and fairness in American society at the top of the news throughout most of the fall.

...The survey attributed the change, in part, to “underlying shifts in the distribution of wealth in American society,” citing a finding by the Census Bureau that the share of wealth held by the top 10 percent of the population increased to 56 percent in 2009, from 49 percent in 2005.

“There are facts behind it,” Mr. Smith said of the findings. “It’s not just rhetoric.”

Image: Charles Barsotti, The New Yorker

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Klein, Douthat: Who Can Name Gingrich's Big Ideas?

Is anyone less deserving of the title "ideas man" than Newt Gingrich? Paul Krugman had it right: Gingrich is "a stupid man's idea of what a smart person sounds like." Consider Gingrich's recent ideas: liberal federal employees should be fired; "radical" judges should be impeached and possibly arrested; school janitors should be fired and poor kids should take their place. It is amazing that the author of these outlandish proposals is treated in some circles as a public intellectual, let alone taken seriously as a presidential candidate.

Liberal commentator Ezra Klein (left) and conservative Ross Douthat agree on the paucity of ideas from this so-called "ideas man." Klein states that Gingrich's recent half-baked arguments are characteristic of his career:

He’s got the largest and most fiscally irresponsible tax cut in the race, but he doesn’t mention it much. His plans to cut spending are vague. He says he agrees with Ron Paul on the dangers of fiat money and the Federal Reserve, but he hasn’t proposed doing anything about it. Last night, during his speech in South Carolina, the only policy he explained in any detail was a proposal to allow offshore drilling off the coast of Louisiana and use the resulting revenues to modernize the port. That would be a medium-sized idea if he was running for governor of Louisiana. It’s the 14th bullet point in your energy policy when you’re running for president.

Broadly speaking, this seems typical for Gingrich’s career: His ideas on the big issues are standard-issue conservatism, and they’re mixed in with occasional flights of fancy (illuminate highways using orbiting mirrors that reflect moonlight), pure plays to resentment and fear (execute 19-year-olds who are stupidly trying to smuggle two ounces of pot from Mexico), and a lot of small, specific ideas, like the Louisiana port reconstruction. But perhaps I’m wrong. Can anyone name some actually big, actually workable, actually new ideas that Gingrich has been associated with during his career? What has he brought to the table that wouldn’t have been there in his absence?

Douthat (left) has difficulty identifying any worthy ideas on Gingrich's part; instead, the GOP candidate offers insubstantial proposals and the politics of anger:

I have, for my sins, watched Gingrich make his pitch across what feels like seventeen thousand Republican primary debates, and I am at a loss to identify the “big ideas” and “big solutions” that he is supposedly campaigning on. Yes, he has an implausible supply-side tax plan, but you never hear him talk about it. He has technically signed on to some form of entitlement reform, but you never hear him talk about that, either. Instead, so far as I can tell, his “idea-oriented” campaign consists almost entirely of promising to hold Lincoln-Douglas-style debates with President Obama, grandstanding about media bias and moderator stupidity, defending his history of ideological flexibility much more smoothly than Mitt Romney, and then occasionally throwing out a wonky-sounding notion (like, say, outsourcing E-Verify to American Express) that’s more glib than genuinely significant. His last-minute momentum in South Carolina, which last night’s debate did nothing to derail, has been generated almost exclusively by the politics of ressentiment: If he wins the Palmetto State primary, it will be because conservative voters don’t much like the mainstream press, and Gingrich has mastered the art of taking tough questions and turning them into dudgeon-rich denunciations of the liberal media and all its works.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Gingrich Shifts On Adultery Questions In Presidential Politics

Newt Gingrich was outraged when John King of CNN brought up his ex-wife Marianne's claim that he sought an open marriage. While Gingrich disputes her account, he was indeed conducting an affair with his current wife Callista while calling for President Clinton's impeachment for adultery. Talking Points Memo revealed the extent of Gingrich’s hypocrisy by contrasting his talk about Clinton's failing the office of the presidency in 1988 with his current aversion to being questioned about adultery as a presidential candidate. Watch "Newt Then And Now":

Studies Find Less Economic Mobility In U.S. Than Comparable Nations

America has long been called “the land of opportunity.” A number of studies, however, are discovering less economic mobility in the U.S. than in Canada and much of Western Europe. This finding ties in with growing income inequality and the shredding of the social safety net:

At least five large studies in recent years have found the United States to be less mobile than comparable nations....

...In 2006 Professor [Miles] Corak [
an economist at the University of Ottawa] reviewed more than 50 studies of nine countries. He ranked Canada, Norway, Finland and Denmark as the most mobile, with the United States and Britain roughly tied at the other extreme. Sweden, Germany, and France were scattered across the middle.

The causes of America’s mobility problem are a topic of dispute — starting with the debates over poverty. The United States maintains a thinner safety net than other rich countries, leaving more children vulnerable to debilitating hardships.

...The United States is also less unionized than many of its peers, which may lower wages among the least skilled, and has public health problems, like obesity and diabetes, which can limit education and employment.

Perhaps another brake on American mobility is the sheer magnitude of the gaps between rich and the rest — the theme of the Occupy Wall Street protests, which emphasize the power of the privileged to protect their interests. Countries with less equality generally have less mobility.

Photo: Flint, Michigan, Occupy protest; Ryan Garza/The Flint Journal, via Associated Press

Jim Hightower: "From Democracy To Plutocracy”

Jim Hightower finds the term “conservatism” inaccurately applied to today’s “conservatives,” including the Koch brothers, the Chamber of Commerce, Speaker John Boehner and Gov. Scott Walker. Instead, they should be described as “plutocrats,” determined to supplant democracy with plutocracy, the rule of corporations and monied elites. Listen:

(h/t: Best of the Left)

Remembering Etta James (1938-2012)

The versatile Etta James, who passed away on Friday, brought her tremendous vocal range and emotional power to rhythm and blues, jazz and pop. Above, she performed her signature song, “At Last.” Beyoncé portrayed her and sang the song in the movie “Cadillac Records,” reviewed here. To hear a tribute to Etta James comprising 11 songs, listen to the second half of the January 20th edition of St. James Infirmary, hosted by my good friend Dr. Michael Mand.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Gingrich: Work Is A “Strange, Distant Concept” To Juan Williams

Newt Gingrich stated that Barack Obama “put” more people on food stamps than any other president, instead of of considering the fact that many desperate American families, including more non-Hispanic whites than blacks, put themselves on food stamps since the 2007 recession. Gingrich also said that poor kids don’t work “unless it’s illegal.” Now Gingrich has directed the same condescending rhetoric toward Juan Williams, who questioned him about his divisive, racially charged language at the GOP debate on Monday. Watch:

Gingrich: I had a very interesting dialogue Monday night in Myrtle Beach with Juan Williams about the idea of work, which seemed to Juan Williams to be a strange, distant concept.

Perhaps for some reason Gingrich finds associating Williams with work to be a “strange, distant concept.” Regardless, Williams is a journalist, which, as far as I know, is a form of work.

Catholic Leaders To Gingrich, Santorum: “Stop Perpetuating Ugly Racial Stereotypes”

The shameful Republican “Southern strategy” of race-baiting is clearly being perpetuated by Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. (As I’ve noted repeatedly, something ugly happens at every GOP debate, including Gingrich’s condescending and divisive comments to Juan Williams this past week). On Thursday, over 40 Catholic university leaders and theologians issued an open letter urging the two candidates to stop using offensive racial rhetoric:

As Catholic leaders who recognize that the moral scandals of racism and poverty remain a blemish on the American soul, we challenge our fellow Catholics Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum to stop perpetuating ugly racial stereotypes on the campaign trail. Mr. Gingrich has frequently attacked President Obama as a “food stamp president” and claimed that African Americans are content to collect welfare benefits rather than pursue employment. Campaigning in Iowa, Mr. Santorum remarked: “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.” Labeling our nation’s first African-American president with a title that evokes the past myth of “welfare queens” and inflaming other racist caricatures is irresponsible, immoral and unworthy of political leaders.

Some presidential candidates now courting “values voters” seem to have forgotten that defending human life and dignity does not stop with protecting the unborn. We remind Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Santorum that Catholic bishops describe racism as an “intrinsic evil” and consistently defend vital government programs such as food stamps and unemployment benefits that help struggling Americans. At a time when nearly 1 in 6 Americans live in poverty, charities and the free market alone can’t address the urgent needs of our most vulnerable neighbors. And while jobseekers outnumber job openings 4-to-1, suggesting that the unemployed would rather collect benefits than work is misleading and insulting.

As the South Carolina primary approaches, we urge Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Santorum and all presidential candidates to reject the politics of racial division, refrain from offensive rhetoric and unite behind an agenda that promotes racial and economic justice.

"Stand With Governor Walker": Anthem Of Desperation

Now that opponents of Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) have collected one million signatures for a recall election, he needs all the help he can get. Glen Shulfer's musical anthem will probably not provide much aid, however, especially since it insults Wisconsinites' intelligence with lyrics including, "He took on the deficit and asked the union folks to pay just a teeny, tiny bit, to make it fair in every way." Actually, Walker worsened the deficit by pushing through tax cuts for his wealthy supporters. He asked the union folks to pay, all right, by stripping their collective bargaining rights, a move that Walker himself admitted saves no money, and giving them a "teeny, tiny" 8 percent pay cut. Shulfer's tune is praised by conservative bloggers–a reminder that the following is not meant as satire. Listen:

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Lloyd, Petrucciani, McBee, DeJohnette

Saxophonist Charles Lloyd came out of retirement after hearing the brilliant French pianist Michel Petrucciani and forming a quartet with him. Here Lloyd plays his “Tone Poem” at Town Hall, NYC, February 1985, also joined by two members of his 1960s quartet, Cecil McBee, bass, and Jack DeJohnette, drums. This exuberant, lyrical performance is highlighted by solos from Lloyd, Petrucciani and McBee and driven by the propulsive drumming of DeJohnette.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My First SOPA/PIPA-Inspired Work Of Art

Surface, Support, Process” at New York’s Guggenheim Museum focuses on monochromatic art from the 1960s. I now relate the works in this exhibit to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). Before I explain, a brief digression.

I’ve always provided links to back up the points I make in my articles. How do I know, though, whether I’m linking to material that poses no copyright infringement? According to Wikipedia, which conducted a blackout on Wednesday to protest SOPA and PIPA, 10 violations could result in five years’ imprisonment.

If SOPA and PIPA are passed, I'd have to black out passages that, left uncensored, might give me five years in the slammer. I’m comforted knowing that self-censorship is a viable alternative; writers in totalitarian societies, after all, have practiced it for years.

So what does this have to do with the Guggenheim exhibit? In a possible brave new SOPA/PIPA future, I might black out one article after another pending my investigation into their legality. Looked at from another perspective, I could evolve into a minimalist artist renowned for my blacked-out series. Please examine my first blacked-out article–or work of monochromatic art–below. It has a certain starkness, a certain absolutist aesthetic that certain sensibilities–perhaps yours–may find bracing:

Monday, January 16, 2012

Report Cites Kochs' Perfect Senatorial Servants

Think Progress focused on a report from Americans For Prosperity, funded by Charles and David Koch (left), citing five senators who received a 100 percent "Congressional Scorecard" for serving the interests of the two right-wing activist petrochemical billionaires. The senators received the rating for votes agreeing with the Kochs on "the repeal of President Obama’s new health care law, preempting EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases, Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget to end Medicare, ending ethanol subsidies, several Congressional Review Act resolutions of disapproval to overturn new regulations and the fiscal year 2012 appropriations bills." The five, all Republicans, include Sens. Tom Coburn (OK), Mike Crapo (ID), Orrin Hatch (UT), Marco Rubio (FL), and Ron Johnson (WI). The senators received a combined $187,400 in campaign contributions from the Kochs.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: Congress Represents The One Percent

Interviewed by Dylan Ratigan, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks about how the one percent dominates Congress through campaign contributions and lobbying. Despite popular calls for the wealthy to pay more in taxes and the outrage over corporations paying no taxes, Congress represents its powerful patrons and ignores the needs of the majority. Watch:

Bill Maher: Save Our Wealthy Children

Bill Maher makes an appeal in support of one of the Republicans’ most cherished goals, the repeal of the estate tax. He cites the heart-wrenching predicament of Charles Peddington III, whose inheritance stands to be lowered from $7.9 to $6.2 million. Watch:

Krugman: King Would Have Opposed Rising Income Inequality

Paul Krugman (left) comments that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have strongly opposed today’s rising income inequality. While acknowledging that income inequality isn’t necessarily a racial issue, Krugman discusses the fact that the economic rise of African Americans, starting in the 1960s, stopped two decades later–and relates it to the finding that economic mobility is now less likely in America than in other Western countries. From “How Fares The Dream?”:

...King — who was campaigning for higher wages when he was assassinated — would surely have considered soaring inequality an evil to be opposed.

...In the 1960s it was widely assumed that ending overt discrimination would improve the economic as well as legal status of minority groups. And at first this seemed to be happening. Over the course of the 1960s and 1970s substantial numbers of black families moved into the middle class, and even into the upper middle class; the percentage of black households in the top 20 percent of the income distribution nearly doubled.

The Times recently reported on a well-established finding that still surprises many Americans when they hear about it: although we still see ourselves as the land of opportunity, we actually have less intergenerational economic mobility than other advanced nations. That is, the chances that someone born into a low-income family will end up with high income, or vice versa, are significantly lower here than in Canada or Europe.

And there’s every reason to believe that our low economic mobility has a lot to do with our high level of income inequality.

...Mitt Romney says that we should discuss income inequality, if at all, only in “quiet rooms.” There was a time when people said the same thing about racial inequality. Luckily, however, there were people like Martin Luther King who refused to stay quiet. And we should follow their example today. For the fact is that rising inequality threatens to make America a different and worse place — and we need to reverse that trend to preserve both our values and our dreams.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On Economic Injustice In America

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of America’s greatest orators and most profound thinkers, making connections between civil rights, the anti-war movement and economic injustice. The following video combines his words with scenes from Occupy protests in Kansas City. This presentation shows how, in an era of rising income inequality, Dr. King speaks to us more strongly and movingly than ever:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Hendrik Hertzberg: What If Romney Does What He Says?

Hendrik Hertzberg (left) imagines a worst-case yet conceivable scenario: a Mitt Romney presidential victory combined with GOP retention of the House–or even a complete Congressional takeover. We'd have a president whose only principle is to hold power–one who consistently forsakes prior positions according to political expediency–combined with a party devoted to obstructing progress for the 99 percent and extending further benefits to the one percent. While reviewing the current GOP primaries, Hertzberg considers the implications of a Republican Party holding Romney to his campaign pledges:

All this is kind of fun to watch—or would be, if it weren’t for what it says about the deeply alarming degeneracy of one of our country’s two great political parties, a party that already controls half of Congress, paralyzes the other half, and has a nontrivial chance of inhabiting the White House a year from now. ...No one, maybe not even Romney, knows if Romney means what he says. But as President, especially if the Republicans complete their takeover of Congress, he would be under irresistible pressure to do what he says. And what does he say? That he would let states recriminalize abortion; that he would seek constitutional amendments outlawing new same-sex marriages and requiring two-thirds congressional majorities for tax increases; that he would sabotage “Obamacare” (never mind that “Romneycare” was its prototype) and seek its repeal, destroying its cost savings and consigning tens of millions to the ranks of the uninsured and untreated; that he would replace unemployment benefits with unemployment “savings accounts”; that he would supercharge income inequality with further huge tax cuts for the wealthy; that he would gut financial regulation; that he would “double Guantánamo,” reauthorize torture, and deport undocumented aliens en masse (including President Obama’s Kenyan uncle); and more.

Lambda Legal Video: “Sh*t Homophobic People Say”

Lambda Legal, which fights for the rights of LGBT people and people with HIV, recently produced the following video, “Sh*t Homophobic People Say.” Watch as some of today’s most prominent anti-gay figures spew their bigotry, falsehoods and ignorance:

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Gingrich Would Fire Liberal Federal Employees

Exactly how does Newt Gingrich hatch his ideas? Recent brainstorms include firing school janitors so that poor kids can scrub floors, and impeaching and arresting “radical” judges. Today, at a Fox News forum in South Carolina, he proposed firing federal employees who are too liberal, stating, “I think an intelligent conservative wants the right federal employees delivering the right services in a highly efficient way and then wants to get rid of those folks who are in fact wasteful, or those folks who are ideologically so far to the left, or those people who want to frankly dictate to the rest of us.”

Such a proposal would seem to be illegal, according to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel:

Generally stated, § 2302(b) provides that a federal employee who has authority over personnel decisions may not:

(1) discriminate against an employee or applicant based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicapping condition, marital status, or political affiliation;

Of course, Gingrich has already indicated that, as president, he’d feel free to ignore Supreme Court decisions. Why, then, would he feel restrained by the Office of Special Counsel?

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: MJQ Performs “Round Midnight”

The Modern Jazz Quartet’s combination of bebop, swing, blues, cool jazz and classical added up to a superb ensemble. Above, Milt Jackson, vibes; John Lewis, piano; Percy Heath, bass, and Connie Kay, drums, play Thelonious Monk’s jazz standard, “Round Midnight.”

Friday, January 13, 2012

NYT: GOP Candidates Disconnected From Economic Reality

There's a controversy over whom to attribute the definition, "Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Regardless, it certainly applies to Republican economic "solutions." Tax cuts for "job creators" clearly haven't resulted in a flood of jobs. Deregulation crashed the economy. The focus on the deficit instead of stimulus and employment hinders an economic revival. Yet the Republican presidential candidates propose the same policies that got us into this mess. Insane, isn't it? A recent New York Times editorial surveyed the delusions the Republicans peddled during the New Hampshire primaries. From "The Republican Contest":

The candidates’ economic arguments were disturbingly disconnected from economic reality. They spoke of government spending as if it were the sole cause of the federal budget deficit and cutting it the sole solution. In reality, it was tax cuts for the wealthy, an assault on social programs and a deregulatory zeal that allowed a recklessness that led to near economic collapse.

...Economic growth and rising productivity are needed for broadly shared prosperity, but rising living standards require policies that ensure regular increases in the minimum wage, which peaked in 1968; greater investment in the social safety net; full employment as a government priority; progressive taxation; and effective financial regulation to avoid overgrowth followed by collapse. 

These kinds of policies dominated from the late-1940s to the 1970s, a time of broadly shared prosperity and a strong middle class. Those policies were then systematically reversed, income inequality began to explode and productivity growth slowed. Tax cuts for the rich and assaults on programs for the poor and middle class worsened inequality during the years of George W. Bush. 

The answer is not more of the same failed policies. The solution is to revive the successful ones, along with policies to stimulate the economy and stop foreclosures. Mr. Obama understands this. The Republican hopefuls are deluding themselves and trying to delude the voters.

Image: Tony Auth, Philadelphia Inquirer

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Fox Host Praises NH Town For Lack Of Black Panthers

Fox News radio host Todd Starnes praised Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, for exemplifying the best of the country’s electoral process. Among its virtues, there are no Black Panthers in the tiny, rural town; just "good American folks." Watch:

Starnes: I love this; this is what America is all about. Like you said, no hanging chads, we didn’t see any Black Panthers with baseball bats. These were good American folks going to do their patriotic duty and I think it’s fantastic; Dixville Notch is just a great little place. 

Starnes is referring to the report, endlessly hyped by the conservative media and especially Fox News, that the New Black Panthers intimidated voters in 2008 at a Philadelphia polling center and that the Obama administration dropped the case. Actually, it was the Bush administration that did so for lack of compelling evidence. Not that that would stop Starnes from speaking in race-based code. Regarding Dixville Notch, Talking Points Memo reports that there are no African-Americans living there.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Debbie Wasserman Schultz On Romney: "A Job Cremator”

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, DNC chair, spoke about Mitt Romney’s experience downsizing companies and laying off workers as co-founder of the investment firm Bain Capital. Interviewed by Talking Points Memo, Schultz employed a neat turn of phrase to counter Romney’s claim that, as president, he’d be a job creator:

“Mitt Romney, I think, is more of a job cremator than a job creator,” Schultz said. She added: “He was a corporate buyout specialist at Bain Capital. He dismantled companies. He cut jobs. He forced companies into bankruptcy and he outsourced jobs and sent jobs overseas. That’s not a record to write home about, that’s not a record to be proud of, and it’s something voters need to know.”

“The Descendants”: Trouble In Paradise

Alexander Payne, who directed “About Schmidt” (2002) and “Sideways” (2004), has again focused on a conflicted male protagonist examining his life in “The Descendants”–and the results are again outstanding. George Clooney plays Matt King, a real estate lawyer who tells us that his state, Hawaii, is not necessarily paradise; people there have their own challenges. His story quickly proves it. Along with his cousins, Matt is involved in a deal to sell breathtakingly pristine land long held in the family to developers. He is also bidding goodbye to his wife who is in a coma following a boat accident. Matt finds out that his wife was committing adultery, adding to his turmoil. In addition, Matt, up to now the “backup parent,” is suddenly in charge of two difficult daughters, Scottie (Amara Miller), 10, and Alex (Shailene Woodley), 17, who must also cope with their mother’s impending death. As Matt tries to locate and speak to his wife’s former lover, he also has to come to terms with his relationship with his wife, re-establish himself with his daughters and deal with his cousins. His struggles are presented through a realistic narrative and an excellent cast that form the basis of this deeply moving film. 

Perry: "I Would Send Troops Back Into Iraq"

Following President Obama’s fulfillment of a campaign promise to bring the troops home from Iraq, Rick Perry stated that he would put them back. He expressed this view at the Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire on Saturday. Watch:

Perry: I would send troops back into Iraq. Because I will tell you, I think we start talking with the Iraqi individuals there. The idea that we allow the Iranians to come back into Iraq and take over that country, with all of the treasure both in blood and money that we have spent in Iraq, because this president wants to kowtow to his liberal leftist base and move out those men and women. He could have renegotiated that time frame. I think it is a huge error for us. We're going to see Iran, in my opinion, move back in at literally the speed of light. They’re going to move back in, and all the work we’ve done, every young man that has lost his life in that country will have been for nothing because we’ve got a president that does not understand what’s going on in that region.

Actually, it's Perry who has no idea what is happening in the region. While the war in Iraq increased Iranian influence over its Shiite neighbor, Iran has failed to decisively extend its reach economically, politically or culturally in Iraq. It has been eclipsed by Turkey, followed by China, Lebanon and Kuwait. Regarding Obama "kowtow[ing] to his liberal, leftist base,” is Perry including the Fort Hood soldiers who are glad to be home?

Mark Fiore’s “The Year In Crazy”

As long as we took in parts one and two of cartoonist Tom Tomorrow’s “2011 Year In Review,” let’s also view animator Mark Fiore’s “The Year in Crazy.” Fiore surveys the ridiculous idea of corporate personhood, crazy dictators, insane candidates, misguided economic austerity, growing income inequality and more. Will more sanity prevail in 2012? Who knows? In the meanwhile, here are some highlights from 2011:

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Santorum: Jobs Boost Due To Anticipated GOP Presidential Victory

The Labor Department reported on Friday that the U.S. added 200,000 jobs last month. The unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent, the lowest in almost three years. According to Rick Santorum, President Obama deserves no credit; instead, it's the prospect of a Republican presidential victory that is boosting employment. Listen as Santorum speaks in Keene, New Hampshire:


Santorum: I'm very gratified to see that in spite of President Obama's policies, the job market is beginning to pick up a little bit. I think there might just be some optimism that maybe Republicans are going to take the White House. Maybe that's spurring people to start taking some risks. I'll take that as a reason.

Multi-Millionaire Romney Declines To Pay More Taxes

At a campaign stop in New Hampshire, a woman asked multi-millionaire Mitt Romney if he were willing to pay more in taxes to help the middle class. She heard, after all, that he has four houses. Romney corrected her: “Let’s see, well, I don’t have four houses, that’s number one…” He didn’t mention that he now only has three. Would Romney, who considers $10,000 chump change, part with any of his money? He declined:

“I can tell you this: the best way that I can help middle-income Americans is to become president of the United States – to cut taxes for middle-income Americans, which is what my proposal does, and to get jobs for middle- income Americans,” Romney said. “And if we get good jobs for middle-income Americans, then we’re going to be able to have people have more demand to hire people and wages will go up.” 

Romney continued: “I know that there are some who say, `Let’s just get more money from the higher-income people, let’s just tax them some more.’ And I understand that’s popular in a lot of people’s minds. But just don’t forget that old Margaret Thatcher line: ‘Sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.’” 

Of course, no one is asking Romney and the rest of the one percent to give up all of their money, and he knows it. In addition, would Romney restore the same good middle class jobs that he helped destroy downsizing companies as part of the private equity firm Bain Capital? Regarding taxes, according to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, middle-income Americans would get small tax cuts of 2.2 percent; taxes for the lower class would actually increase. Romney would give anyone earning more than $1 million–clearly including himself–a tax cut of 15 percent. Clearly the middle class is not his first priority.

Nicholas Lemann On Ron Paul's Vision For America

Nicholas Lemann (left) writes that Ron Paul “speaks most directly to one of his party’s deepest emotions: hostility to government.” Paul may be more purely libertarian than his fellow Republican candidates, but he indeed represents a pervasive strain in the GOP. Those attracted to Paul’s anti-war and civil liberties stands should also pay attention to the rest of his program. His lack of compassion and common sense would end up hurting the 99 percent even more. From “Enemy of the State”:

...the truth is that Paul’s vision reveals—with candor and specificity—what the G.O.P.’s rhetorical hostility to government would mean if it were rigorously put into practice. A minimal state, without welfare provisions for the unemployed. A quarter of a million federal workers—as a first installment—joining those unemployed. Foreign policy and national defense reduced to a few ballistic-missile submarines. The civil-rights legislation of the nineteen-sixties repealed as so much unwarranted government intrusion. As for the financial crisis, Paul would have countenanced no regulation that might have prevented it, no government stabilization of the financial system after it happened, and no special help for working people hurt by it. This is where the logic of government-shrinking leads.

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Savoy Brown's "Poor Girl"

Kim Simmonds, lead guitarist of Savoy Brown, last shown here playing acoustic blues, is one of the great English rock and blues guitarists, one who has never been fully recognized. Above, Simmonds and company play "Poor Girl," whose lyrics speak of a rural woman who, after living the fast life in the city, returns to the country. Following the opening, Simmonds plays a dreamy solo (at 3:53) that gains in intensity.

Friday, January 6, 2012

McCain Praises Obama: Freudian Slip?

Following my review of “A Dangerous Method,” I’m in a Freudian state of mind. So when John McCain said, “President Obama will turn this country around,” at a South Carolina rally for Romney, was that a Freudian slip? Did McCain reveal an unconscious belief that Obama is the superior candidate? Watch:


“A Dangerous Method”: Talking But Not Connecting

Based on true events, David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method” depicts two personal conflicts centered around Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (Michael Fassbinder). There’s the growing estrangement between Jung and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen), as Jung explores mystical realms dismissed by the father of psychoanalysis. Then there's Jung’s adulterous affair with a former patient and future psychoanalyst, Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley).

Jung is torn between his loyal wife and the passionate and masochistic Spielrein, who formerly suffered from hysteria. In the midst of Jung's turmoil, Spielrein travels to Vienna to meet Freud–seemingly to be treated by him, through they end up discussing psychoanalytic theory. The movie ad states, “Both men fall under Sabina’s spell.” Not quite. As far as Freud is concerned, Jung's adultery with a former patient is just one more reason to disapprove of his former follower. As one would expect in a narrative based on talk therapy, there’s a lot of discussion and analysis–but Jung's conflict with Freud and his affair with Spielrein do not connect enough for a satisfying drama.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

God Tells Pat Robertson He’s No Obama Fan

God, who previously flip-flopped on his preferred Republican presidential candidate, has revealed the next president to Pat Robertson. The evangelical leader, however, said on the 700 Club that he is "not supposed to talk about that." God did, though, tell Robertson that he dislikes President Obama and that the U.S. is on the verge of economic collapse. In that, God sounded amazingly like Robertson himself, who has repeatedly warned that America is headed for disaster. God also revealed to Robertson that the "radical" Obama is directly related to the chaos coming toward America and the world. Watch:

Robertson: I spent the better part of a week in prayer and just saying, ‘God show me something.’ Some things I’ll share with you. I think he showed me about the next president but I’m not supposed to talk about that so I’ll leave you in the dark—probably just as well—but I think I know who it's going to be. I’m going to read just as I wrote down as if I’m hearing from the Lord these words:

'Your country will be torn apart by internal stress, a house divided cannot stand. Your president holds a radical view of the direction of your country which is at odds with the majority; expect chaos and paralysis. Your president holds a view which is at odds with the majority, it’s a radical view of the future of this country, so that’s why we’re having this division. This is a spiritual battle which can only be won by overwhelming prayer. The future of the world is at stake...'

...So I’m saying, 'God, let me give you some suggestions and you tell me if any of them is right, pick one.' ...What is it? It’s an economic collapse. And God said, 'This is not my judgment; they are bringing it upon themselves.' (h/t: Right Wing Watch)

"I Am Obamacare"

"Obamacare" is a derisive term among the right. While I wish Obama had fought harder for a public option, I can't forget the fact that every Republican presidential candidate vows to repeal health care reform. Whatever its limitations, the president's legislation continues to have a beneficial impact on real people. That includes those who were not covered due to "pre-existing conditions." This woman powerfully tells her story with her sign:

Santorum Calls For Invalidating All Gay Marriages

When it comes to gay marriage or abortion, Republicans forget all about “small government” and “state’s rights.” Speaking to Chuck Todd, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum states that he supports a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and would invalidate those already legal. Santorum states that we should give heterosexual marriages "special privileges" since they can produce children. Would he invalidate childless heterosexual marriages? He refers to votes against same-sex marriage, as if rights should be subject to a vote. People vote it down, Santorum argues, because they understand its “real consequences.” Funny–since same-sex marriage’s legalization in New York, I haven’t noticed any dire consequences for my wife and me. Watch:


Santorum: I think marriage has to be one thing for everybody. We can’t have 50 different marriage laws in this country, you have to have one marriage law… 

Todd: What would you do with same-sex couples who got married? Would you make them get divorced? 

Santorum: Well, their marriage would be invalid. I think if the constitution says “marriage is this,” then people whose marriage is not consistent with the constitution… I’d love to think there’s another way of doing it. (h/t: Think Progress)

GOP Candidates Aim To Shower More Gifts On The One Percent

Those who are part of the one percent and lack any concern for their fellow citizens or country will receive a great return on their investment in any Republican presidential candidate. Think Progress has produced the chart below demonstrating that each one supports more tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations and the repeal of financial regulations. How will we pay for all these goodies for those whose income has skyrocketed over the past 30 years? Well, we can start by cutting Medicare and Social Security. Once again, the GOP makes its priorities clear: in order to protect the wealthy, we must have “shared sacrifice”–from the 99 percent.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Paul Krugman: “Keynes Was Right"

Paul Krugman continues to apply the lessons of major 20th century British economist John Maynard Keynes to today’s fiscal issues, particularly the insight that it is government’s role to stimulate the economy during times of stagnation. Krugman has consistently called for stimulus over austerity and jobs over deficit cutting. While President Obama's stimulus package was successful, Krugman has correctly argued that it wasn't bold enough. He criticizes the conservative theory that budget cuts lead to economic recovery–a theory that is failing in both the U.S. and Europe:

 “The boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity at the Treasury.” So declared John Maynard Keynes in 1937, even as F.D.R. was about to prove him right by trying to balance the budget too soon, sending the United States economy — which had been steadily recovering up to that point — into a severe recession. Slashing government spending in a depressed economy depresses the economy further; austerity should wait until a strong recovery is well under way.

Unfortunately, in late 2010 and early 2011, politicians and policy makers in much of the Western world believed that they knew better, that we should focus on deficits, not jobs, even though our economies had barely begun to recover from the slump that followed the financial crisis. And by acting on that anti-Keynesian belief, they ended up proving Keynes right all over again.

...the real test of Keynesian economics hasn’t come from the half-hearted efforts of the U.S. federal government to boost the economy, which were largely offset by cuts at the state and local levels. It has, instead, come from European nations like Greece and Ireland that had to impose savage fiscal austerity as a condition for receiving emergency loans — and have suffered Depression-level economic slumps, with real G.D.P. in both countries down by double digits.

...the insistence on immediate spending cuts continued to dominate the political landscape, with malign effects on the U.S. economy...

Matt Rothschild: 2011 Was “The Year Of The Global Uprising”

Matt Rothschild, editor of The Progressive, states that 2011 was a year in which “history came alive; when people were no longer the objects of history, but its agents." He cites the Arab Spring, which threw out dictators Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Qaddafi; the protests in Wisconsin over Gov. Scott Walker’s (may he soon be thrown out of office) union-busting bill, the Occupy Wall Street movement, which engaged in civil disobedience against rising income inequality and political corruption; and the mass protests in Russia against electoral fraud under Vladimir Putin in Russia. May the rebellions against economic and political injustice continue in 2012. Listen:


(h/t: The Progressive, Best of the Left)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

“Pop: The Genius of Andy Warhol”: Just Look At The Surface

Pop: The Genius Of Andy Warhol by Tony Scherman and David Dalton. 509 pp. Harper Collins. $17.99 (paperback)

“If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface: of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it,” wrote Andy Warhol. “Pop: The Genius of Andy Warhol” focuses on the artist’s most creative period, 1961-1968, when this emphasis on the surface startled the art world. Following abstract expressionism’s focus on the inner life, pop art, with Warhol as its prime example, looked outward. Warhol’s silk-screened Campbell’s soup cans, Brillo Boxes (which he spoke about in characteristically deadpan style) and Marilyn Monroes reflected American consumer and celebrity culture–and their mass reproductions reminded one of the media's repetitious images. When Warhol next depicted “death and disaster” events, he reminded us of the way one becomes desensitized through such repetition.

As Warhol turned to film, he showed the same tendency to reflect, this time in minimalist fashion; his early films trained, hour after hour, on the Empire State Building or a man sleeping. Eventually he turned his camera on the marginal and self-destructive characters who flocked around his Manhattan studio, The Factory. Without film plots, he let them reveal their exhibitionism and neuroticism. Warhol also produced The Velvet Underground, which explored dark, urban themes in contrast to the flower power ethos of the day; in the process, he produced a multimedia show, The Exploding Plastic Inevitable. The Factory scene, which became a web of competition for Warhol's favor, spun out of control and ended when a deranged hanger-on shot Warhol and left him fighting for his life.

Though Warhol eventually spoke of challenging Hollywood by moving from underground films to entertainment, he was incapable of sustaining a narrative. In addition, Scherman and Dalton contend, he lost his way as an artist, accepting commissions to paint the rich and famous, becoming in the process a “court painter.” Contending that Warhol’s late work never came up to the standard of his 1960s output, the authors end their account in 1968. A 2010 show at the Brooklyn Museum, however, reviewed here, leads one to question whether his work over the next two decades could be dismissed so summarily. Regardless, the book gives us a fresh look at the impact Warhol had in expanding our definition of art–an impact so groundbreaking that he became one of the most important artists of the 20th century.